I have a corkboard in my room that I call my failure board. On it I keep notes about all the contests and queries I’ve sent that were rejected.
Really early in my writing journey I decided I would keep track of all the times I failed as a writer. While blindly believing I would be a published teen author, I was also, somehow, vaguely aware that the journey to get from writer to published author would be a difficult one.
I entered a few contests that would publish the winner’s manuscript. I also have entered a few shorter things to short story, essay, and poetry contests. The most notable of which was the CBC Short Story prize.
But why do I have a failure board? Why keep track of when I don’t succeed?
I think the main reason is so that I had a record of where I had started and how far I have come. The problem with only looking at successes is that they are not a true measure of the work that it took to get to that success. By having a failure board, I have a timeline of what I was writing, what I thought was my most impressive work, and the kinds of things I pursued, thinking they would bring me closer to success.
Most of the things on my failure board I’m glad didn’t work out. There are four separate novels that I submitted either to publishing houses or contests. If they had won, I would have these published novels that I have since rewritten, scrapped, or revised to the point of not being able to recognize the story I initially submitted.
In the case of the 3Day Novel, it wasn’t until after the contest had ended that I realized the book wasn’t meant for the public. It was meant for me. It was a spiritual journey God had helped me through. Those two 3Day Novels were basically therapy for me. They are not the novels I want published, and I’m glad I didn’t win.
My failure board is not meant to shame me. My failure board is an encouragement, and in the case of my novels, a relief about the ways in which my writing could have gone and thankfully didn’t. I don’t keep a failure board as a way to attack my confidence as a writer. My failure board offers me a picture about where I’ve been, where I’ve come from, and how I have progressed through my writing journey, both in the types of writing that I do, but also in the ways I understand success.
It’s a bit of an odd question, but are there failures of which you’re proud? What have you learned about yourself, your writing, and your understanding of success through failure?